SUBANG JAYA: Malaysia is a beautiful country rich in history, culture and tradition, and with a fascinating multiracial population that gives it added charm and character.
One artist with an appreciation for the olden-days has been incorporating the country’s old-world charm into anime-style works of art, producing slice of life drawings that are nothing short of stunning.
FMT Lifestyle met with Seremban-born Chong Fei Giap, 36, recently to chat about about his unique drawings.
“I have always liked those elements that are quintessentially Malaysian, such as life in the kampung or small towns, so redesigning those backgrounds and injecting it with an anime style is very interesting for me,” he said.
“Our traditional buildings are not lacking in unique characteristics, so taking them apart and reassembling elements of fantasy together with my inspiration is amazing.”
Looking at Chong’s art, you can pick out old shophouses interspersed with graphics reminiscent of a scene in an anime, only the school girl’s uniform is the familiar light blue pinafore. And towering sky-scrappers straight out of a futuristic movie, have a steampunk vibe to it.
“My family ran a traditional grocery store when I was a kid, and most of my childhood memories revolve around that store. Hence, that and other traditional South East Asian structures are often featured in my artworks too.”
Surely this means he has a great affinity for comics and anime, seeing how it has heavily influenced his art.
“To be honest, I’m not really a comics guy. When I read them, I tend to focus more on the art style instead of the actual story.
“I’m a visual person, and if an interesting visual catches my eye, I’ll remember it for a long time, be it a movie poster, an illustration or even an advertisement,” Chong said, laughing.
As a kid, Chong was constantly doodling and before long, he had dreams of becoming a graphic designer. However, he was informed while in college that graphic designers typically worked in advertising agencies and in a team with other creative people.
Being a self-proclaimed introvert who preferred working alone, he decided to shift his focus to illustration instead, and worked hard to hone his sketching skills.
Upon graduating, Chong worked as a comic colourist and illustrator for a production studio for a while, even designing the artwork for Petronas’ National Day advertisement in 2014.
“It was an honour to be able to be involved in the annual event.”
Remember the critically acclaimed local movie “The Journey” (2014)? Chong was behind the concept art and poster for the movie, too!
However, it wasn’t until he started local creative brand Loka Made in 2015 with his design partner Audrey Chew, that he had something to truly call his own.
“Initially Loka Made was just an illustration and graphic journal featuring my past works, but Audrey said we can do something more long-term and proposed making pop-up cards from the art.”
He said persuading bookstores to carry their products was tough going at first. And like many others before them, the duo had to deal with one too many rejections. But rather than feel dejected by the experience, he and Chew studied what the market wanted and produced the right kind of material that got them on the shelves eventually.
While they started with pop-up cards that showcased the beauty of local landscapes and cultures, Loka Made has since branched out, producing postcards, keychains, stickers, magnets and more.
They also continue to produce festive artwork to commemorate special occasions such as National Day, Hari Raya and Chinese New Year.
“For the future, we want to focus more on product designs, because there are so many possibilities that we still haven’t explored in that regard yet.”
Paper Adventures by Loka Made
G33-34, Ground Floor
Jalan Hang Kasturi
50050 Kuala Lumpur
Business hours: 10am-6pm daily